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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Mulawa Dreaming Easy Comes to Linux

It wasn't that long ago that we announced a collaboration between behavioral health professionals, academics and coders that would ultimately produce a Linux program to help autistic children learn the mouse.

That work is still in the developmental stages within our academic team...they are gathering resources and forming the framework for that software.

 An unexpected benefit of this effort was forthcoming soon after we announced it.

Peter Hewitt is a retired educator and IT professional who came to us not particularly interested in helping develop Meacher the Mouse Teacher, but in rebuilding his mouse teaching program Mulawa Dreaming Easy for Linux.  As it stood, it was a Windows only app but having over 200 thousand downloads of his varied projects, Peter believed that it was worth expanding to the Linux world.  He emailed me and told me that when he had something ready, he would email me.

I think it took him 3 days.

Mulawa is a simple program but within that simplicity lies its beauty.  It is primarily designed to help the physically or mentally challenged child understand how a mouse works, but should do nicely for the very young as well.   There isn't a lot of distracting noise, either visual or in the audio.  It rewards by sound and signals an incorrect choice with another sound.  Peter is no stranger in working with children and children's software.  He has developed over 30 activities for the OLPC program and continues to refine his other work.

The program comes within a simple tar file with the data file and an executable.  Ideally, this would be deb-packaged as well as packaged for the other installation formats as well.  You can find Mulawa to download it here.

Peter asks that you test the dickens out of it and post your findings here.  Hopefully that will lead to more work being done on Mulawa and further spread its use within the various Linux Distros.  If I remember correctly, Peter said it was tested and worked fine on Linux Mint, Fedora and Debian.

Test drive the wheels off of it and let's see if we cannot add one more great program to the educational software packages within Linux.

No one loses.

All-Righty Then


Peter Hewitt said...

Tested on Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Fedora, OpenSUSE & Debian BUT on Debian ... there is an outstanding problem with sound that causes the program to die when the first sound is played. Press S to turn the sound off.


PS The "200,000" actually refers to the total of all my OLPC activities :)

Anonymous said...

1. Make the "press H" more prominent on the start screen.
2. There should be a more intuitive way to access the next stage in the third activity than pressing 3.
3. Level four should be available sooner. Connecting the bubbles eleven times will cause frustration.
4. Level four crashes my Linux Mint 11 Gnome system every time. Had to do a hard reboot.

Peter Hewitt said...

I have solved my Debian problem by installing pulseaudio.


Peter Hewitt said...

We should have made it clear that this suite of activities is intended for use with a person of possibly limited physical ability working with a mentor. This is why the text at the bottom of the screen is deliberately unobtrusive as it is only intended for the mentor. So the different activities are called up by number by the mentor. Similarly the Help screens.

You only have to do the bubbles successfully once from 1 to 9 to move on. The additional levels are for the person who really gets off on this activity or who needs more practice.

I have just retested Level 4 on my Linux Mint 11 and it works faultlessly - as Ken says "Welcome to the wonderful world of software".

If you wish to try the other levels, change the number in md_easy.txt to 9 - this will allow you to try all 9 activities.

Thank you for taking the time to test MD Easy.


WorBlux said...

I can't run it. (Gentoo multi-lib)

I don't have pulse audio on my system (nor do I want it) and the x86 emulation libraries don't include it.

Hooking into OpenAL or SDL instead would be a more widely supported option, especially in distros that want to avoid the bloat.

ldd ./MD_Easy => (0xf7755000) => /usr/lib32/opengl/nvidia/lib/ (0xf7662000) => /usr/lib32/ (0xf75f6000) => /usr/lib32/ (0xf756d000) => not found => /usr/lib32/ (0xf744f000) => /usr/lib32/ (0xf7449000) => /usr/lib/gcc/x86_64-pc-linux-gnu/4.5.3/32/ (0xf7357000) => /lib32/ (0xf7331000) => /lib32/ (0xf7316000) => /lib32/ (0xf72fb000) => /lib32/ (0xf719d000) => /lib32/ (0xf7199000) => /usr/lib32/opengl/nvidia/lib/ (0xf7196000) => /usr/lib32/ (0xf58c4000) => /usr/lib32/ (0xf58b3000) => /lib32/ (0xf58aa000) => /lib32/ (0xf5895000) => /lib32/ (0xf5884000) => /usr/lib32/ (0xf586a000)
/lib/ (0xf7756000) => /usr/lib32/ (0xf5865000) => /usr/lib32/ (0xf585f000)

Peter Hewitt said...


Not sure what you're telling me - are you saying it won't run on Gentoo or you won't even try because of the lack of pulse audio.

If the latter, simply start it up and press S to disable sound.

I'm a complete Linux newbie - all my recent programming is done in Python or BlitzMax. I tried to use the former with MD Easy (I also require Pygame) but it was just too messy to come up with a reasonable installation.

With BlitzMax I'm at the mercy of a commercial product - only recently have they come up with sound that works on Linux and this uses pulse audio. And they still haven't provided a graceful exit when pulse audio is not present.

Thanks for the "ldd" command - very interesting although I just tried it on Fedora and it responds "not a dynamic executable". I'll try it on my other distros. And I'll add Gentoo to my collection.

Thanks for your time ... Peter

Carolyn said...

Playing with it on Fedora 14-- functionally fine so far, but I noticed something to fix. The help on game #2 (Count) says to hit 1 for a new level, but hitting 1 just brings up game #1 (Four Frames). Hitting 2 for a new level instead works.

Peter Hewitt said...

@Carolyn - thank you for giving it a spin. Look carefully at the Help you mention ... it says "touch 1" - at this stage there's no expectation that the player can do anything more than move the mouse - hitting the 1 key is certainly not desirable.


Anonymous said...

To make a deb file, you really need the source code. What is downloaded from your posted link is only the binary version.

To build the program against (significantly) different library versions you actually have to recompile the program (its a little more complex, but it involves so-called "ABI" and API changes).

Basically, if ubuntu or debian try to use this, there is zero guarantee that an update wont knock it out.

Ed Vim said...

I'm on a Slackware 13.37 system -- I really wanted to try MD out but as it requires PulseAudio I have to pass. Just my opinion but PulseAudio on average tends to be a stability issue. Very functional when it does work, but considering the numerous problems it introduces in various distros and in many installations it's disappointing and surprising how prevalent it has become. I look at PulseAudio as one of the negative factors that make audio for Linux such a convoluted mess.

fredex said...


just tried to run it on my netbook, where it says

"Require 1024x768 screen - sorry!"

no chance of supporting 1024x600?


Grant1 said...

Fantastic work, Peter, thanks for your efforts! My niece is learning the computer now and this is going to be a great for her! I have tested it on Fedora and Debian, works as expected as far as I can tell. Debian I turned sound off.

Peter Hewitt said...

Now that's the sort of feedback I like! Thanks for posting.

How old is your niece?